Saturday, November 30, 2013

Scenic Route (2013)

Things aren't as bad as they seem (or are they?)

When two old friends go on a road trip, things don't turn out quite like they imagined.   The main actors do a very respectable job of portraying the tension between them.  And I love the sheer minimalism of the film, which is mostly set on a stretch of desert road over the course of a few days.  The payoff was not what I expected, and not as good as it could have been.  Overall, this was an interesting look at what people are really like when you remove all the niceties. 

Scenic Route drives home its point to earn 3 out of 5 Poblanos!

Director: ,
Starring: , ,
Rotten Tomatoes: 62%
Metacritic: 34%

Sunday, November 24, 2013

World War Z (2013)

Don't say the zed word!

People start turning into zombies.  Worldwide chaos ensues.  Brad Pitt helps to save the day.  Having read the book and loved it, I was skeptical about a film being made from it.  And while the film version is very different than the book, it is still pretty great.  It is rare than a big budget Hollywood action film keeps my attention like this one did.  The first and third acts of this film were dripping with tension.  The story was great, the acting was great, the zombies were great, everything was great.  The high caliber scribes and very able director deliver a very satisfying addition to the zombie genre.  And even though the zombie craze may fade away someday, this film will remain a great film which will stand the test of time. 

World War Z claws its way to 4 out of 5 Poblanos!

Director: Marc Forster (Monster's Ball, Stranger Than Fiction, Quantum of Solace)
Writer: (The Kingdom), Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods, Cloverfield)
Starring: , (The Killing),
Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
Metacritic: 63%

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Kings of Summer (2013)

After the boys of summer have gone

Teenager Joe is struggling at home and struggling at school.  Feeling the need to get away from his life, he has a plan.  Recruiting his friends Patrick and Baggio, the trio builds their own cabin away from civilization.  I am a sucker for coming of age films like this one.  This film has echoes of so many of my favorite kid and teenage films (The Goonies, Super 8, Adventureland).  The overall positive tone of this film is tempered by the black humor and real sadness felt by everyone in the film.

The Kings of Summer reigns supreme with 4 out of 5 Poblanos!

Starring: , , Nick Offerman
Rotten Tomatoes: 76%
Metacritic: 61%

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Liberal Arts (2012)

I don't want to grow up

35 year old New Yorker Jesse is asked to return a small college in Ohio for the retirement of a favorite professor.  Getting reacquainted with his alma mater, Jesse finds himself caught up memories of his own college life.  While in Ohio, he meets Zibby, a 19 year old college girl with whom he begins a long distance friendship.  The rest of the film is filled with misunderstandings, broken hearts, and some tough life lessons.  The characters are likeable and memorable, the dialogue is very poignant at times, and the film manages to stay away from the cliches that are so common in Hollywood dramas.  Overall Liberal Arts if a very respectable first film for Josh Radnor.

Liberal Arts gets 3.5 out of 5 Poblanos!

Writer: Josh Radnor
Starring: Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother), (Martha Marcy Mae Marlene), (Cabin in the Woods),
Rotten Tomatoes: 70%
Metacritic: 55%

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

John Dies at the End

Is this the real life, is this just fantasy?

David and John try to help a young woman in need, and then things get supernatural.  David meets with a reporter to tell his story, which is quite unbelievable.  And there is a drug called Soy Sauce which has given David psychic powers.  This is a weird, wonderful film which will be either loved or hated.  It you like things such as Shaun of the Dead, Tucker and Dale vs Evil, or Todd and the Book of Pure Evil, you will love this one.  Filled with comedy, bizarre supernatural occurrences, and miscellaneous mischief, this film is thoroughly enjoyable. 

 John Dies at the End freaks everyone out, in a funny way, to receive 3.5 out of 5 Poblanos!

Director: (Bubba Ho-Tep, The Beastmaster (writer))
Writer: Don Coscarelli,
Starring: , , ,
Rotten Tomatoes: 61%
Metacritic:53 out of 100

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The East (2013)

We're not gonna take it!

Eco-terrorists have promised to hit three corporate targets across the United States.  An undercover agent from a private security firm is sent to infiltrate their network and bring back intel.  She then becomes sympathetic to their cause.  Having been very intrigued by the trailer, this film turned out to be very different than I thought it would be. The first third of the movie was really great, the middle third was good, but the final third suffered a little.  On the whole, a really good film with some great young actors. 

The East gets 3.5 out of 5 Poblanos!

Writer: Zal Batmanglij
Starring: (Another Earth), (Melancholia), (Juno, Inception)
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Metacritic: 68%

12 Years a Slave (2013)

Free indeed

A free man from Saratoga, NY is robbed of his freedom and sold into slavery.  He spends the next 12 years of his life separated from his family, longing for the moment when he can be free again.  Steve McQueen definitely made me feel what it was like to have lived as a slave in the United States.  This is a powerful film on so many levels.  Chiwetel Ejiofor, who portrays Solomon, is beyond fantastic in this role.  The rest of the spectacular cast also put out some very powerful performances.  There is currently a lot of Oscar buzz around this one and it will definitely deserve any awards that it gets. 

12 Years a Slave gets the full 5 out of 5 Poblanos!

Writer: (screenplay), (based on "Twelve Years a Slave" by )

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Only God Forgives (2013)

Thailand, the land of smiles

When expatriate criminal Billy kills a young Thai girl, his younger brother Julian is left with the mess.  Set in Bangkok, Thailand, this crime story and revenge tale is a little bit brutal and a little bit surreal.  Director Nicolas Winding Refn and actor Ryan Gosling reunite for this visually dense look at the underbelly of Bangkok.  Kristin Scott Thomas gives a perversely funny, as well as sad, portrayal of Billy and Julian's mother.  I can think of a good many adjectives to describe this film - eerie, atmospheric, ambiguous, stylish, sparse - and for me, every one of those describes a positive trait of the film.  The critics may not love it, but I sure did! 

Only God Forgives gets 4 out of 5 Poblanos!

Director: (Drive, Valhalla Rising)
Starring: , ,
Rotten Tomatoes: 40%
Metacritic: 37%

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Punching the Clown (2009)

Who are you?

A comedic musician who is trying to make it in L.A. gets mistaken for someone famous.  This case of mistaken identity leads to a record deal.   Which then leads the aspiring celebrity into the middle a big hysterical misunderstanding.  Real life comedian and musician Henry Phillips' deadpan delivery, (faux) cluelessness, and dry wit are the stars of this comedy.  Not many films make me laugh out loud, but this one did.  Great for fans of music, comedy or both. 

Punching the Clown laughs it way to 4 out of 5 Poblanos!

Writer: ,
Starring: , ,
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Metacritic: 62 out of 100

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Snow on Tha Bluff (2011)

Fear of a black planet

Curtis Snow is a drug dealer and thief who chronicles life in his Atlanta neighborhood with a stolen video camera.  Through the camera's lens, we get a glimpse into life on The Bluff, a rough and tumble part of town which is situated lies mere blocks from the revitalized and prosperous downtown.  I am a sucker for these faux-doc/ found footage type films.  This particular one was thoroughly engrossing.  It was realistic, funny, dramatic, and heartbreaking all at the same time.  Hard to separate fact from fiction in this one.

Snow on The Bluff pops off 4 out of 5 Poblanos!

Director: ,
Writer: Damon Russell,
Starring: , ,
Rotten Tomatoes: Not yet rated
Metacritic: Not yet rated